Namibia out to spoil Zim party

Namibia lost 34-28 to Kenya at the Barthes Cup tournament on 20 April 2024. Photo: Africa Rugby FB

Namibia can revive their under-20 Barthés Trophy fortunes if they stick to the game-plan, says head coach Allister Coetzee.

Following their opening day loss to Kenya in Harare on Saturday, Namibia need to bounce back with a comprehensive victory over host nation and holders Zimbabwe today to keep their faint hopes of glory alive.

The Barthés Trophy is Africa’s gateway to the under-20 Rugby World Cup, with the tournament winner guaranteed a spot at the 12-team global competition, which takes place from 29 June to 19 July in South Africa.

Coetzee, who still harbours hopes of leading his team out at the world cup in his home country, said costly errors and not getting the bounce of the ball cost Namibia dearly against Kenya.

He attributed the poor showing to a lack of cohesion and his side deviating from playing to their strengths, especially in the opening half.

“As I explained to these youngsters, it all has to do with not being underdone as a team, not having had enough time to play together as a team. And, you could see in the second half, we started to find each other better,” Coetzee said on Desert Radio yesterday.

The wily mentor added that the game was up by the time Namibia got their act together.

“There was really a great shift in the second half with team cohesion. We wanted to get off to a fast start. We were behind in the first half, 23 points to 6, and we had to play catch-up rugby,” Coetzee said.

“In the end, we had a chance to win the game by a kick. Unfortunately, those things happen in rugby and we couldn’t convert. Then we gave away a soft try at the end to lose the game.

“But as I see things and I understand the game very well, we were definitely the better team on the day,” Coetzee said.

Namibia nearly pulled off a thrilling comeback, scoring four tries in the second half to briefly cut the deficit from 28 to 29.

However, Kenya capitalised on more slack play to see out the match.

“The talk at half-time was just to tidy things up, to look after the ball and play within the structures and to our strengths,” Coetzee observed.

“The boys did that. A much better second half, a better impact from the bench made all the difference, as well in terms of controlling the ball.

“The Kenyans made use of their opportunities and our unforced errors on the day were too many. We didn’t look after the ball,” said Coetzee.

Today, Namibia need a near-flawless display against Zimbabwe’s Junior Sables, who will be buoyed by home support and their impressive 46-21 victory over Tunisia.

“Hopefully, we get another chance as a team to play together against a very, very strong Zimbabwe side. They are really flying high,” Coetzee said.

“They are two-year champs in a row, so they would want to go for the treble. We want to improve as a team and put up a better start, a better performance than the one against Kenya,” he said of the expectations of his charges.

“The boys are really giving everything and putting in the effort to see if we can come up with a better performance.

“We’re going to come out fighting and we’re going to try and implement our game plan and play to our strengths.”

The hosts are determined to keep the trophy at home. To do that, they too need to up their game today, said head coach Shaun de Souza.

He is especially weary of Namibia following that stirring second half display against Kenya.

“We are expecting two good, hard matches going forward. We focus on Namibia now,” said De Souza.

“We saw what we saw during the live game, but we will analyse it closely and find out who the key [Namibian] players were that came on and changed the game, and come up with our strategy for [today].”

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